Cancer patient can't sue hospital under current NY law

In 2012, Lissy McMahon seemed to be a healthy 42-year-old single mom raising her son Jack near Boston. An ultrasound revealed a fibroid in her uterus needed to be removed. Lissy decided to have surgery at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York to be closer to family during recovery.

But two years later, she started having severe back pain.

"They found a huge tumor in the middle of my back," she said.

It was stage-4 cancer in the uterus, liver, and back. Lissy's doctor delivered more devastating news.

"'We reviewed the pathology slides from Lenox Hill and there was evidence of cancer on 10 out of 40 of the slides,'" she said the doctor told her. "I was honestly almost too in shock."

Lissy wanted to sue the hospital but couldn't because New York state Law requires claims of medical malpractice to be filed within 15 months after they occur.

"I was told that the window of time that I would have had to seek restitution for this mistake closed before I even knew I had cancer," she said.

That's when she hired Jeffrey Bloom, a prominent medical malpractice attorney, who just settled the Joan Rivers case. The two are pushing to change the law, which is already in place in 46 states.

"Two and a half years from the date that you should have discovered the malpractice is what the statute should be," said Bloom, a partner at Gair Gair Conason. "It's what it is everywhere else in the country."

It's called Lavern's Law, named after a Brooklyn mother who died from a curable form of lung cancer in 2013. It has bipartisan support but still needs to be voted on.

"Right now there are 38 cosponsors of the 63-member state Senate who say they support the bill," Bloom said. "Bring it to the floor. We'll get it fixed."

We asked Lenox Hill Hospital for comment. A spokesperson said: "We are conducting a thorough investigation into this case and examining the care provided to this patient during her stay here in 2012. We will work diligently to address any issues that are identified."

If the law does pass, Lissy plans to bring a lawsuit against the hospital. But if the law doesn't pass this session, it will have to wait until next year. To a stage-4 cancer patient, that may be too late.